A paradigm shift has recently occurred in the field of cancer therapeutics. Traditional anticancer agents, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and small-molecule drugs targeting specific signalling pathways, have been joined by cellular immunotherapies based on T cell engineering. The rapid adoption of novel, patient-specific cellular therapies builds on scientific developments in tumour immunology, genetic engineering and cell manufacturing, best illustrated by the curative potential of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy targeting CD19-expressing malignancies. However, the clinical benefit observed in many patients may come at a cost. In up to one-third of patients, significant toxicities occur that are directly associated with the induction of powerful immune effector responses. The most frequently observed immune-mediated toxicities are cytokine release syndrome and immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome. This Review discusses our current understanding of their pathophysiology and clinical features, as well as the development of novel therapeutics for their prevention and/or management.
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